This session would produce no results, and they all realized it. It drew to a close under polite remarks seething with an unseen tension between the two voices. It would have been quite comical if the situation were not so comprehensible to both sides. As Beatrice gave one last haunting look to the room before she left, she heard a bare whisper in her ear. It was Grevin’s rolling voice.
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“You are right not to trust him, neither do I. Come with me to Auckland and I will show you something that will be of even greater interest when the time comes.” But before she could reply, he said, “Ask the Ears.”
The Ears, ears lined the four sides of a room filled with shimmering fairy lights of a winter morning by the sea. Delicate pale shell-pink ears suspended in crystal jars. Glass cases imbedded inside the walls from ceiling to the floor, each case held a pair, like two broken halves of a strangely exquisite heart, glistening transparent. The man who owned them had none for himself. He does not want them, though he hoarded them, as how he hoarded the little fingers of left hands inside the ceiling in another room, a dark forest green room filled with old paper books.
If the City of Claret was truly alive, then this place of ears was its neural center. All information pulsed through here, gaining ripples and influence or death and sink into the oblivion of the cliff underneath the translucent floor. By a single stroke, knowledge and labor received its worth. The owner of this office, one might say, had tremendous power at his disposal. At the moment though, he was not inside it.
A man with skins stretched too tight over the cheekbones stood outside the door. He was leaning thoughtfully on a thin white-washed wall of many wrinkles and creases that vibrated with the wind. There was a certain sense if comfort and wonder in his expression, a fascinating amiableness set off by the exquisite delicacy of his sharp features.
“Please do not enter,” He said aloud, albeit slightly huskily, almost regretful. “I fear my constitution is too fine at the moment to undergo any upheavals. This is not a place for random, pointless entry. Food or shelter I can offer none. ”
“Mermaids and Nereids.” A voice outside cried, somewhat desperately. The man paused slightly, then slowly cocked his head in a mechanical manner, and smiled, destroying any semblance of a peaceful man on him. It was a sustained crooked smile seemed to brutally tear the two sides of his face. He walked several steps ahead. Lightly, he drew an invisible answer on the single tableau of a shark’s tooth that hung at eye level, and the bright beams of the noon sun hurtled in from the far end of the corridor.
A small, scruffy haired boy entered quickly, looking as if he had been starched up in a hurry, yet there was no wild-eyed manner on him. In fact, his expression was deadpan while affable, quite business like.
“Ah.” The man said.
“Ohhh.” The boy replied and gave a slight bow, taking in everything at once: the lithe young man with no ears wrapped in a vermilion cloak and the extreme whiteness of the corridor. Gingerly, surreptitiously, he extended a small finger and touched the wall. It was still wet.
“I think introductions will hardly be necessary.” The man said, irritation concealed under graceful intonation. Why doesn’t she come herself and must send this puerile creature? Would he not look at me? Why must his eyes wonder all over my home? What does he want?
“On the contrary, sir, it is vital to my message.” The boy seemed determined to only give curt answers.
“Fine then.” The man was aware that the little blond boy put him very ill at ease. A peculiarity around him brought back memories from a long time ago from when he was outside, living the convention of ignorance. Now “On the contrary” where had he heard this phrase uttered with this same wild vehemence?
“Aren’t you going to invite me to your office?” The man gave the boy a guarded glance. Goodness gracious, he thought, this boy is amazingly bold, what are the times coming to? Now where did she find this fellow that will probably haunt me for the rest of the month?
“That is my decision to make.” He finally said, for a lack of better answers. He could turn him out at a moment’s notice, but since she sent him...The boy took advantage of this brief moment of silence.
“Then you won’t know something, Interlocutor.” Extremely annoyed at being thus humbled by a mere child, muttering, the man fumbled for something about his person and the floor of the corridor began to move. Notwithstanding the few number of windows, light congealed and collected on the white walls and the many silver mirrors.
“Who sent you?” The Interlocutor asked as a matter of formality as they settled down into the two straight backed chairs inside that room of ears.
“Mistress Beatrice Ambery.” The boy answered, suddenly grave.
“Hmm.” It was clear that the child held much respect for her, the Interlocutor thought. It is strange, she never told me anything about this boy, but then, she never tells him anything. Shifty, she was, and he had told her so. Her response had been a mocking laughter and then genuine empathy. Yet, she was the only one who supported him in this enterprise, the only one who could see its success and reason during its ridicule. He could see the headlines: Heir to Communication’s Fortune Becomes Mere Collector of Info! With the subtitle- Curiosity Will Kill the Cat Experts Predict. During an age where everything was connected, his venture seemed superfluous at best.
It is all in the past now. He wanted her to stay with him, here, in a manor beside the sea with future power and eternal wealth at their fingertips, but she declined, promising him visits she never made. He wanted to find her, but his position rendered that impossible. He became too important, too dangerous, too sensitive. He thinks she might understood this before he ever realized. Ironic, he thought, he had desired freedom from knowledge; instead, he was now bound tighter than any affinity ever did.
The boy regarded all this carefully. He was used to it. “It was Master Faralyn Grevin who told her.” He added.
“Who? About what?” This Interlocutor who conversed with the highest among people nearly jumped. It was discomforting, after fifty years, he could still feel jealousy, or rather, protectiveness about her.
“Something very important involving some sort of a castle.” The boy answered wistfully, and then abruptly paused. The Interlocutor felt a strong desire to shake the boy.
“Now finish your sentence.”
“I want something.”
The Interlocutor sighed; it always comes down to this. Sometimes he wondered how it was even possible that others thought him to have power when there are people constantly blackmailing him like this.
“We will see.”
“I want my father’s ears.” That explains why he had been eager to be in here.
“It depends on who he is and whether he is in here.”
“Benin Keshnevsky son of Ienin son of Venin the Major Dominici of the Concert of Kiev.”
“Very well, now pray tell what you had presently withheld.”
“She was summoned to Andromeda’s Court by Faralyn Grevin, the optics Sage. However, they left for Auckland last afternoon.”
“I also want my mother’s ears.”
A soft silvery laughter drifted in from the windows inside his memory palace. His heart turned and pity came. This boy’s doom hangs upon his brow yet he can do nothing to stop it. Why must this happen? Why did Beatrice send him? I can do nothing. All this irony in one morning. If he had never taken the ears when the man offered it, what might happen then-the destruction of two kingdoms, millions dead, two wondering spies identified, a boy with parents and no Beatrice to educate him how to shrewdly read faces.
“She told me she only trusts you and understands your precarious circumstance. She wishes me to tell you Seigneur Jasunros’ plan must be stopped, and you know what it is and…” He stopped again, but the Interlocutor was already beyond agitation.
“As I took leave of her on the station underneath the Tasman Sea, she told me to tell you she has found a way to escape,” the Interlocutor felt as if someone just rammed a book against his head, “but the man named Grevin and the whole of the court is after it as well. Someone else is also pursuing her. An unknown enemy that appeared just today. She suspects that that someone is after the court, but now know the secret and lust after her as well. They are lying to her. She remember Grevin now, and says you do too, she said he was Tomas Deper.” The Interlocutor’s hand clenched the arms of his chair at that name, but the boy stood up. Tomas Deper was the borderline who had suavely lied to both of them in a plot that nearly ended in their ignominious deaths. The Interlocutor had lost track of him over the years, believing him to have committed suicide at long last. So he was with Jasunros all along…
“Don’t go Krenin, tell me more, and I will give you things other than ears and my clock. What do you want? I have secrets here, secrets that can make you rich and powerful. I am bound by my oath and honor, but you are not. Do you wish to overturn a nation, to destroy your enemy, to ennoble your friends? All I ask if you would remain even for a little while here and help me remember and understand. What was Beatrice’s secret?”
“I know no further. No thank you sir, I leave now.” Krenin hastily went out, briefly stopping before the mirror door, one hand clutching his father’s ears and the other his mother’s, eyes staring straight ahead. Fifteen minutes later, sitting by the open window the interlocutor heard the small boy’s childish voice strangely reminiscent of Cenithrian’s carried up by the wind.
Now that there is the melody,
All we need are simple ears,
To complete intricate wonderful lace,
Of times so long ago,
When thou were with me.
Twenty fathoms deep,
Under waves and fish
There thou liest asleep,
Please awake one more time,
And hear thy boy’s final song.
Then the Interlocutor heard a soft splash among the crashing waves and felt the trembling of soft flesh beside his head.
A/N: As you can see, I have a lot of explaining to do in the last two parts.
The conscious shape reality.